There was a strong Indian selection and contingent and Pakistan had another film in official selection as well…
THIS YEAR our red carpet coverage really stuck out and all the South Asian films were of a high standard and had lots of parallel themes – especially India’s ‘Agra’ and Pakistan’s ‘In Flames’.
Both were in the Directors’ Fortnight section and aimed their critical guns at repression – sexual, around gender and interestingly, also had a property theme running through them both.
Of our interviews – with so many stars (!), it was hard not to be awed – Sunny Leone was charming, interesting and clearly on a career high. The one-time adult film star, already established in India, is set to conquer new worlds, possibly and alludes to such in our interview.
Shruti Haasan is one of the most beautiful entertainment stars in India and her first international film (as a British Asian character) sounds intriguing and highly promising. ‘The Eye’ film might be finished in time for Venice – but don’t hold us to that. The Tamil star, daughter of South Indian legend, Kamal, also has a parallel music career.
When talking of beauty and poise, former Miss Universe India and now actor Urvashi Rautela invited us into the world of the Martinez Hotel and a fashion closet! Amazing (See our gallery pictures below and Youtube channel for our interview with her.)
We also caught up with Indian auteur director Anurag Kashyap whose 14th or 16th film at Cannes (in one guise or another as writer-director-prdocuer) was a great watch and a fine selection for a Midnight Screening. He and lead actor Rahul Bhat (the Kennedy of the title) discuss the central character and why the film is called ‘Kennedy’.
On the red carpet, we covered three in all – with the first being a first for www.asianculturevulture.com as an Opening Night film.
This year it was the French, ‘Jeanne Du Barry’ with Johnny Depp walking the red carpet as one of its stars in this French film by Frech director Maïwenn. It is already out in Frnace and garnered good reviews – as for Depp, opinion remains divided.
We were back on the red carpet on the Thursday (May 18) for ‘Indiana Jones and The Dial of Destiny’ and saw several Indian stars walk the Red Carpet, including Sapna Chaudhary, a household name in her native Haryana and best known as a dancer-performer-actor and someone who broke through further after appearing in Bigg Boss 12 (India’s ongoing version of ‘Big Brother’).
We returned for one of the biggest of Red Carpets of them all – ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ on the Saturday. It was thrilling to see Martin Scorsese, the legendary American director flanked by Hollywood icons, Robert De Nero and Leonardo Di Caprio.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan also made an imperious entrance draped in… well, you should read the comments to our Youtube footage which focuses on her.
Chaudhary made a second appearance and we caught up with her later to talk about her Cannes’ journey – that video interview (in Hindi) will be out shortly.
We saw the India Pavilion being opened on Day 2 of the festival (on May 17) – not quite as starry as last year but the poised Sara Ali Khan showed she makes a fine ambassador for the Indian film industry and we also saw but didn’t get the opportunity to speak to Indian film stars, Manushi Chhilar or Diana Penty, who graced the pavilion at a later date.
On the day Penty was there, it was rainy and we had visions of that 2019 interview with Momtaz Begum-Hussain being repeated. (https://youtu.be/SiTbTCuUSbA) but alas, she wsa off to the red carpet.
And yes, we did get to see a few films (see here for our Competition round-up – http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/cannes-2023-competition-winners-including-what-we-saw-with-the-zone-of-interest-leading-the-way-for-us-film-pictures-and-winners-list/) and there were four Indian films at the festival in all – and we saw three of them.
We were not able to get to the Cannes Classic ‘Ishanou’ (‘The Chosen One’) by Aribam Syam Sharma which has been fully restored by India’s Film Heritage Foundation and was first screened in 1990. Steeped in Manipuri (north east India) culture, it covers a rather unique setting, blending traditional Manipuri music with the occult beliefs of the Maibis people as faithfully ‘translated’ by writer MK Bindonini Devi.
We also have reviews on ‘Kennedy’ –
We also saw the other South Asian film in official selection. Zarrar Khan’s debut feature, ‘In Flames’. – follows on the heels of the success of ‘Joyland’ last year and was in the Directors’ Fortnight section as ‘Agra’.
Our review of Kanu Behl’s film is here – lead actor Mohit Agarwal (Guru) joined us and Behl to talk about the themes…
The La Cinef category is reserved for student filmmakers and entries from official film schools – and from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune came the short, ‘Nehemich’ (Always) – set in lockdown (in India in 2020/21), it uncovers the customary practice – at least in parts of rural Maharashtra (and in the Marati language) – where women on their period are banished – yes, sent away to isolate in a hut! Yudhajit Basu’s film tells the story of two women trying to make it through an ordeal one on top of the other. We will carry an interview when the film hits the next prominent festival following its world premiere in Cannes.
Also to appear at a later date is the story behind ‘Can I go home now?’ which is remarkable documentary about the children of Ukraine caught up in the war. AR Rahman has scored the film – which is an art production with a strong humanitarian message and is directed and produced by British-born Pritan Ambroase, who was in Cannes to promote it. Rahman himself was not in Cannes but Ambroase is working hard to get the film ready for submission to Venice.
Suman Bhuchar, acv associate editor, has also written about the documentary, ‘Four Daughters’ which won three awards. ‘Four Daughters’ is from Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania, while ‘The Mother of All Lies’ from Moroccan filmmaker Asmae El Moudir won big in its Un Certain Regard Section. North African/Maghreb/Arab cinema is on a high after this Cannes. More here.
She also made it to the Hollywood star Jennifer Lawrence backed ‘Bread and Roses’ which is about the suffering of women, as the Taliban impose their uncompromising rules on girls and women in Afghanistan.
Finally, it feels like we did a lot (what we might do in a month in London in a just a few days) – and yet…remember an editor is never satisfied, however much we did do and however well the team worked under extreme pressure of trying to get to screenings, write reviews, edit footage, take pictures and generally try to keep you asianculturevultures informed!
With a very big thanks to #Cannes2023acv team – Natalie Barrass, Anuj Deo, Brigitte Leloire Kerackian and Suman Bhuchar.
Till next year, Cannes – au revoir!
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